Japan gives a muted welcome to spring

Japan declared the official opening of its cherry blossom season in Tokyo on Wednesday, although it will be a muted and less exuberant welcoming of spring than in previous years.

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced that the "someiyoshino" cherry tree in the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine that it uses every year to determine the start of cherry blossom season was 90 percent in bloom. The tree's pale pink flowers blossomed five days later than last year, the agency added.

Further north, in the hills around Morioka, larks were reportedly heard singing, the traditional indicator of the arrival of spring in that city.

There is little reason for festivities in Japan at the moment, however, as communities across the north of the country continue the clear-up of the devastation caused by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered. Those natural disasters were made worse by the damage they caused to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactor, which engineers are still trying to bring under control.

Combined, Japan's problems are playing havoc with its tourism industry.

Between March 11 and 31, an average of 3,400 foreign nationals arrived each day at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, down 75 percent from the same period last year. Similarly, the number of foreign arrivals at Osaka's Kansai International Airport came to 1,700 people a day between March 18 and 23, down more than 50 percent.

The decline in the number of tourists arriving in Japan has been made worse by the thousands of foreign residents who have opted to leave - either temporarily or on a more permanent basis. Many foreign governments, including the French and Germans, strongly advised their nationals to refrain from traveling to Japan or to leave entirely.
The Japan National Tourism Organization has been using its website - http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ - to reassure travelers about conditions in the country, posting frequent updates from international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization and the International Air Transport Association.

In a statement, JNTO President Tadatoshi Mamiya admitted that the natural disasters have had "an enormous impact" on Japan's inbound tourism.

"While many areas in Japan remain unaffected by the disaster, they are also suffering from the sudden decrease in international visitors," he said. "We are deeply concerned that this will not only affect Japan's tourism industry directly, but also will have a negative impact on our industry partners around the world.

"JNTO is committed to provide timely information on the current situation in the travel industry and to the public through our we site," he added. "Once the situation in Japan stabilizes, we will strive to resume all promotional activities as soon as possible.

"We look forward to warmly welcoming our visitors in the very near future," Mamiya said.

In recent years, the government of Japan has set ambitious targets for inbound tourists. Last year, the tourism agency said it was aiming to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2013, more than double the 7.3 million foreign visitors to the country in 2006 and a sharp improvement on the 8.61 million arrivals recorded in 2010.

JR

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor